Record number of fans rush Franklin Street after Final Four win over Duke
Immediately following the North Carolina men's basketball team's triumph over Duke in the Final Four, fans flooded Franklin Street — chanting, jumping over fires and climbing light poles.
In one of the biggest celebrations in Chapel Hill history, an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people took part in the treasured tradition. When UNC defeated Duke in its last regular season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, as many as 15,000 people rushed Franklin to celebrate.
On Saturday night, the intersections of Franklin and Columbia streets turned into a celebratory scene yet again after North Carolina advanced to the national championship game.
Students rushed from all corners of campus, running from the Smith Center watch party, high-demand Sup Dogs seats and gatherings at houses and dorms.
Whether it was the excitement from advancing to the title game, satisfaction from beating Duke or the thrill of making history — students and community members alike made their way to the celebration.
"I was so nervous, and then when we won it was so amazing," UNC first-year Kate Combs said, her voice hoarse from screaming. "I’m a freshman, and so this is so awesome. It's so awesome that we beat Duke the second time this year.”
Tar Heel fan Melvin Moungle brought his drum from Winston Salem to play on Franklin Street after the win.
"Still the most exciting drum night of my life," Moungle said about the 2017 rush. "I’ll never forget being surrounded by the people around the fire and feeling a special feeling that is very rare in music."
A crowd gathered around dancing in front of the Franklin Street Starbucks as Moungle played, with blue confetti falling and fireworks illuminating the scene.
“Bottom to the top, every role, it takes a whole team to get it done,” he said. “Proud of y’all hard work, you made your city proud, you made your state proud.”
No one dreamed during that first rush on March 5 that UNC would get to leave another sting during Coach Krzyzewski’s last Final Four appearance and shatter Duke’s chances of winning one last national championship under his leadership. But that's exactly what happened.
The victory on Saturday marked Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's last career game.
“The problem with victory laps is this — you can trip,” UNC graduate student William Bennett said. “And in some cases, I think coach Mike Krzyzewski would agree, you can trip twice and in fact have both your regular season and postseason ended by the same team."
The back-and-forth bout had hopeful fans sitting at the edge of their seats until the final seconds.
"I felt like it could have gone either way tonight," Christine Szeto, a 2017 graduate who watched the game in the Dean E. Smith Center, said. "I didn’t think it was going to go one way or the other — it was like the toss of a coin flip for me. But it was a really close game the whole time. It was too much nerves.”
Annah Ndirangu and her friends started heading to Franklin Street from Craige Residence Hall with about four minutes left in the game because they were confident the Tar Heels would pull through.
They followed along on their phones on the way. Ndirangu said the experience was exhilarating.
"I knew this would be a tight game,” she said.
Ahead of UNC-Duke games, Chapel Hill officials prepare for a rush, anticipating the need to close streets due to capacity.
Prior to the Final Four matchup,officials prepared for the crowds by increasing personnel, restricting parking, closing streets and monitoring for capacity limits and alcohol violations.
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“We’ve done this before, so the Town is used to the excitement on Franklin Street, so that part is not new,” Alex Carrasquillo, Chapel Hill's community safety public information officer, told The Daily Tar Heel on Friday.
On Saturday night, 10 people were treated for non-serious injuries, four of whom were transported to the hospital, according to an email statement from Town Manager Maurice Jones. Additionally, one person was charged with firearm violations for carrying a concealed gun without a permit and carrying a concealed gun after consuming alcohol.
As town officials turn their attention to Monday's national championship game against Kansas, Jones reminded Chapel Hill community members to "celebrate in a safe and appropriate manner."
For some who rushed Franklin Street, the win against Duke brought back memories of past championships and Franklin Street celebrations.
“I was here in 2017," Stewart Kepper, a class of 2020 graduate, said. "It was my freshman year, and it’s like that all over again except we beat Duke.”
For seniors, the game Monday will be one last chance for a basketball national championship title in their four years at UNC.
“It is absolutely amazing to be a senior and be in this environment, this is what I’ve been waiting for,” senior Diana Bangera said. “I am hopeful. I am also like incredibly nervous.”